Joyce Groote, Owner, President and CEO of Holeys, joined TEC Canada as a Vancouver Chair in 2010. She currently runs a CEO group and a second group for entrepreneurs and growing business owners. Joyce kindly took some time out to talk to TEC Exchange about her experiences as a woman leader in Canadian business, and to share some advice for other women looking to improve their business success.
Why did you become a Chair?
I was a member of TEC for a number of years and absolutely loved everything about the organization – the speakers, my group and my Chair. TEC helped me to grow both personally and professionally. TEC also helped me transform my company to accommodate new realities in China, as well as changing economic factors and distribution, to be a profitable, easy to run company that operates under a completely different business model.
I also have a real love and fascination for business and realized that I could put my strategic skills to use to help others grow. Lastly, being a Chair also allows me to keep learning. I learn from my members as well!
Which components of your experience and expertise do you think will contribute most to your members’ growth?
I have experienced a lot through my past, particularly in my role as CEO and President of Holeys. Because Holeys was the fastest growing Canadian company under the Profit Hot50 in 2006, I understand a lot about rapid growth and what it is like to ride a bumpy road. I also learned a lot about running a company, sometimes doing so the hard way. Through Holeys, it was important to understand international distribution, sales, manufacturing in China, dealing with the Chinese culture and continually reinventing myself and the company to grow. These are all skills that allow me to ask the hard questions, listen intently and get to the core of an issue quickly. All of these skills allow me to help my members.
With your work internationally, in China and elsewhere, have you experienced additional challenges because you’re a woman?
There is a distinct gender preference in certain countries; an automatic respect for men, but I noticed this more strongly in some European countries than in China. Being a goal-oriented person, I have generally elected to make the goal my priority, rather than my pride, and dealt with the challenge by working with the men on my team to expedite the process. To me, this is simply about adapting to the environment in which we’re doing business by sending in the most appropriate person to achieve our business goals.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing business leaders as individuals? What about women as business leaders?
To not get drawn into the trenches. Remain strategic which is the specific environment that TEC provides. As a member, TEC provided one entire day per month where I could be focused only on strategy. My company needed and counted on me to be the strategic force!
To keep thinking about how the business can be creative and fill gaps that no one else is filling. All leaders should be constantly ensuring that their value proposition is the right one and that their differentiation is very clear. This helps prevent being commoditized, which wreaks havoc with pricing pressures.
Ensuring a work-life balance. Women leaders tend to have an edge in understanding this need and TEC helps to keep the balancing act as a focus. Male business leaders often have less work-life balance so can make significant strides from the monthly reminders and group feed-back.
How do you keep work-life balance? How do you spend your ‘life’ time?
For fitness and health, I have long term goals which are then broken down into shorter milestones that can be done in a week. I book exercise time into my schedule to make sure that it doesn’t get put off. Focus on my health has been very important and allows me to deal with a lot more pressures and stress than without it. My husband and I also ensure that every week is filled with time for each other as well as some individual time.
Drawing on your experience as a successful businesswoman, what is the main action you feel that women leaders can take starting today to increase their success?
Believe in themselves. Strive for congruency between their head, heart and gut when making important decisions. We have to learn to trust our intuition.
Understand themselves and hire around their weaknesses. No one is a one-person show where they have all the skill sets that will be required for a successful business.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I have seen pride get in others’ way so they don’t ask for help when in need. Women tend to be a little better at asking for help and should continually expand their network of those whom they can rely upon. From my own experience in asking for help, it has always amazed me how many people are willing to step up.